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Organ harvesting

Australia may legalize organ harvesting of live patients

Monday, July 10, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: organ harvesting, medical ethics, health news


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(NewsTarget) The Australian Health Ethics Committee is currently lobbying for legislation that will allow bodies to be prepared for organ transplantation before death; specifically those who are certain to die when their heart stops beating. The result is that Australia may become the first nation to specifically legalize organ harvesting on patients not yet dead.

"There is only one state of death, but there are two ways in which a doctor can certify death as having occurred: brain death and cessation of circulation," said working party chair Peter Joseph.

Brain death is declared when doctors' tests show that the patient has lost all brain function permanently. Cardiac death is when circulation stops, or when the heart has stopped.

It has been within the committee's ethical guidelines to conduct transplant preparations in brain-dead patients in the past, as circulation can be maintained through a ventilator, preserving the organs. Joseph said preparation of organs in living patients was vital to preserving solid organs. Organs such as livers, kidneys, lungs and hearts deteriorate quickly after circulation has ceased, often within a few minutes.

Joseph admitted that a donor might be aware of their organs being prepared for harvesting, but said such a procedure would only be carried out with the permission of the donor or that of his or her family.

The committee also wants the law to cover all states and territories, as some of the laws in place would make them otherwise illegal.

Organ harvesting and transplantation generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year in revenues for surgeons and hospitals around the world. Most organ transplantations are done on patients who destroyed their natural organs through poor diet and lifestyle choices, chemical abuse (such as smoking and drinking), preventable exposure to environmental chemicals, or a lifetime of consumption of nutritionally-depleted processed foods laced with chemical additives, solvents and cancer-causing agents.

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